Long-Term Cancer Survivors Fare as Well as or Better than Everyone Else, AJMC® Study Finds

April 17, 2018

Advances in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer have markedly changed the outlook for those who survive the first four years after cancer diagnosis, according to a new study in The American Journal of Managed Care.® Long-term cancer survivors do as well as or better than the rest of the US population, researchers find.

Life after cancer is not what is used to be, and long-term survivors can expect health and quality of life on par with Americans of the same age and background, according to a new study in The American Journal of Managed Care®.

Led by researchers from Precision Health Economics, the study found that those who survived cancer at least four years had health and well-being measures that were as good as or better than those of the general population and those with a chronic disease.

“Our study results are striking, given concerns that patients with cancer may experience a low quality of life,” the researchers wrote. “Although we do find that quality of life is reduced in the short-term, we find that it solidly rebounds in the years after diagnosis, becoming comparable with or even better than that of others of similar age and demographic characteristics.”

The study was the first to compare health and well-being measures for long-term cancer survivors with those of patients recently diagnosed with cancer. The findings are important as cancer death rates have dropped 23 percent between 1990 and 2012, according to the American Cancer Society.

Researchers examined data from four cohorts who took part in the Health and Retirement Study between 2004 and 2014: those recently diagnosed with cancer (defined as less than four years ago), those who had survived cancer at least four years, those with a chronic illness (such as diabetes, hypertension, previous stroke, or heart or lung disease), and a representative sample.

Health and quality-of-life outcomes for long-term cancer survivors were better than those for patients recently diagnosed with cancer and those with chronic illness. When comparing these outcomes between long-term cancer survivors and the general population, the results depended on whether researchers controlled for the number of comorbidities. Controlling for comorbidity count, the long-term cancer survivors had health and quality-of-life outcomes similar to or better than the general population. Not controlling for comorbidity count, long-term cancer survivors showed moderately higher healthcare utilization and spending and moderately lower self-reported health and employment. According to the authors, these results suggest that the well-being of long-term cancer survivors is greatly affected by whether they have other health problems.

Based on their findings, the researchers saw value in helping patients with cancer get well. “It makes interventions offering patients with cancer a chance of long-term survival more valuable,” they wrote.

Bristol-Myers Squibb funded the study.

About The American Journal of Managed Care®:

The American Journal of Managed Care® (AJMC®) is a peer-reviewed, MEDLINE-indexed journal that keeps readers on the forefront of health policy by publishing research relevant to industry decision makers as they work to promote the efficient delivery of high-quality care. AJMC.com is the essential website for managed care professionals, distributing industry updates daily to leading stakeholders. Other titles in the AJMC® family include The American Journal of Accountable Care®, and two evidence-based series, Evidence-Based Oncologyand Evidence-Based Diabetes Management. These comprehensive offerings bring together stakeholder views from payers, providers, policymakers and other industry leaders in managed care. To order reprints of articles appearing in AJMC® publications, please contact Jeff Prescott at 609-716-7777, ext. 331.

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AJMC® Media:

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Surabhi Verma

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